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Originally published Friday, September 21, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Neutrals are the new pink, blue

Choosing what color to paint kids’ rooms expands beyond traditional gender types.

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Designer Marika Meyer is in baby overload. In addition to moving her 2-year-old son, Grayson, into his “big boy room” before Baby No. 2 arrives in December, she has seven clients who are expecting.

But get this: None of her clients has chosen to learn the gender of the baby before birth. For Meyer, who is in charge of decorating each nursery, this means no princess murals or race-car beds. These days, she said, neutrals are the new pink and blue.

“Parents don’t want to compromise the home’s sophistication just because there are children in it,” said Meyer, who lives and works in Bethesda, Md. “Keeping the walls neutral allows them to have both.”

Meyer suggests soft, pale colors that won’t be overwhelming when the room fills with toys and books. Benjamin Moore’s Thornton Sage, a mint green with a hint of robin’s egg blue, is the color of Grayson’s current room, which Meyer said looks “perfectly serene” accented with white trim and green-blue window treatments.

Stonington Gray, also by Benjamin Moore, is the top pick for his next room, but Meyer said it could be equally pretty in a girl’s room if accented with the Pantone shade Kelly green.

Sonu Mathew, senior interior designer for Benjamin Moore paints, thinks gender-neutral paint choices are part of a larger cultural movement that allows children more creative freedom.

“This trend is about equality and appreciating children for who they are rather than sorting them into categories from the get-go,” she said. “It says a lot about how we’re raising our children today.”

Mathew, who has three boys, including 9-month-old twins, said guests couldn’t guess the gender of her children by walking into their bedrooms.

She likes this because historically, color didn’t always carry so much weight.

“Before World War II, trends in fashion and design pointed to boys wearing pink just as quickly as girls would wear blue.” she said. “So today, we’re going back into that space where things are more level.”

Mathew’s go-to colors are Sweet Daphne, a muted apple green, Fun ‘n’ Games, a bright beachy blue, and African Violet, a bold lilac with a touch of red.

Children in particular respond to purple because of its mystical history, Mathews said. For centuries, only royalty could afford purple paint because of its expensive dye. Today, it represents nobility, mystery and magic. (Perhaps that’s why it appears so frequently in the Harry Potter books.)

Far more than pink, blue has become a favorite of both girls and boys, said Erika Woelfel, Behr’s director of color marketing.

“Themes — unicorns, kitties and cowboys — are tired,” she said. “Parents want paint to last beyond the baby years, so we’re seeing a lot of blue, green and wheat.”

For a boy’s room, Woelfel recommended Behr’s Tahoe Blue trimmed with Minted Lemon, a leafy green. For a girl’s room, trim it with crisp white.

Yellow is a risk-free, classic color that will last until college for a boy or girl, according to the paint experts.

Newell Turner, editor in chief of House Beautiful, said a warm, sandy yellow is “the most versatile gender-neutral color there is,” because it can be paired with feminine or masculine accessories and “even draws a little from nature.”

His favorite is Pebble Beach by Mythic Paint.

Meyer likes Manchester Tan, a beige-yellow from Benjamin Moore’s historic collection, and Woelfel suggests Behr’s Pale Wheat, which resembles a deep tan, for its “longevity and sophistication.”

Mathews favors Lemon Sorbet, a bright buttery yellow that is also Benjamin Moore’s color of the year for 2013. “We’re moving away from the deep, saturated colors of the past decade,” she said, “and toward polished pastels.”

More simply, pale yellow is easy. Turner described it as “a chameleon color” that provides an easy transition into the other rooms of the home, which is ideal for parents whose aim is subtlety.

“Yellow is optimistic, energetic and confident, which are all very important words for children,” Mathew said. “They’re also important words for where we’re headed in 2013, and I love that I can say that. It’s a color of transition and this is a transitional time.”


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